Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 11, 2020


Thank you, Minister. I want to begin by welcoming President Abbas today to this Council and also to thank the Secretary-General, Mr. Mladenov, Ambassador Danon, and my Council colleagues for their comments.

How this Council allocates its time defines who we are and what we believe is important. This is especially true of today’s meeting, because finding a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is important. It is important to President Trump. It is important to me, personally. Based on our recent conversations, I know it is very important to each member of this Council. And it is vitally important to both Israel and to the Palestinian people. Since the formation of the United Nations, this Council and the General Assembly have demonstrated their belief in the importance of the Middle East peace through countless hours of debate and by passing more than 800 resolutions addressing this issue. But neither these debates nor these resolutions have resulted in a true and lasting peace. So, with this record of failure this spectacular, it would be folly to suggest that this time was well spent, and that what is needed now is more of the same. That is why President Trump has proposed a new Vision for Peace, which poses a tangible challenge to the status quo.

Given that challenge, it is understandable that emotions are running high today, and that strongly worded statements are being made. President Abbas, I heard you, I heard you speak of hope, I heard your words about the importance of hope. To keep hope alive there must be willingness to compromise, to engage in good faith. But we are not here to merely promise hope. Anyone can promise hope. We are here to deliver on hope because that is what leaders do. It is what we are called to do today. But once we have said our piece today, I want us to begin thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow. Rather than respond directly to today’s fiery rhetoric, now is the time to set the table for a new conversation – a conversation in which we do not talk at each other, but with each other. A conversation that is a starting point, not a finishing line. And when I speak of a conversation, I want to be clear, as the President stated, “we are not here to lecture – we are not here to tell other people how to live, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values.” This partnership must begin with an understanding that real peace is never something theoretical. It is not something to be found on pieces of paper, but in concrete experiences of security, economic opportunity, and freedom.

For too long, we have made the mistake of assuming that documents filled with high-level principles or theoretical concepts alone will lead to the kind of peace that provides for the dignity of all people. But I am here to tell you today that this kind of peace – concrete, lasting, dignity-honoring peace – that is intrinsic to the plan proposed by President Trump on January 28th. The Vision for Peace is different from any of its predecessors because it is specific and realistic. Israel’s acceptance of the plan and its conceptual map represents a historic step toward the establishment of a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. This vision shows respect for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s special role in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem and ensures the ability of Muslims from around the world to worship at the al-Aqsa mosque.

And I would emphasize, especially to those who have expressed concerns, that the plan offers something deeply meaningful to the Palestinian people: a realistic prospect for seeing, in their lifetime, a self-governing and fully recognized Palestinian state. The plan also recognizes that a political resolution to this conflict is not enough to ensure the Palestinian people have the opportunities to thrive. Opportunities they need, opportunities they deserve. The plan proposes historic levels of economic investment in the future State of Palestine – more than 50 billion dollars in total. This investment would reverse the brutal cycle of poverty that has trapped thousands of Palestinian men, women and children for decades.

As President Trump said two weeks ago, he wants this plan, and I quote, “to be a great deal for the Palestinians. It has to be.” And it is. In laying the foundations for widespread economic opportunity, the United States’ plan is more than a path to Palestinian independence – it is a blueprint for the construction of a flourishing Palestinian state. This is not a proposal of peace in theory, but of dignity in practice. The United States believes that this plan is realistic and implementable. And I will repeat here what Senior Adviser Jared Kushner has asserted on multiple occasions: this plan is not a “take it or leave it.” It is not a “my way or the highway.” It is not set in stone. Rather, it is an opening offer. It is the beginning of a conversation – not the end of one.

The United States stands willing to support all efforts to begin this conversation, and moving forward, we hope all parties will keep an open mind, listen, and engage. I’m optimistic all Council members will give this approach a fair hearing, rather than revert to the old habits that have not produced, and cannot produce, peace that we all seek. And above all, we hope that Israelis and Palestinians will have the courage to sit down together to talk to one another. You have heard me say repeatedly that the United States will always stand by Israel, ensuring that its security is never threatened and that its prosperity is protected. That has not changed and it never will. The people of Israel have no better friend than the United States, and I want them to know that as they forge a new path to peace, we will be with them every step of the way.

But I want to make clear that the United States also stands by the Palestinian people and supports their will for a better future for themselves, and for their children. My fervent hope is that after today’s rhetoric clears, Palestinian leaders will see this plan for the opportunity it is, roll up their sleeves, and seize this chance to sit down with the leaders of Israel to begin a new conversation. Continuing to leave this conflict unresolved only benefits the extremists who seek to radicalize younger generations and perpetuate the cycle of terrorism.

But peaceful co-existence is not out of reach. By committing to extend freedom, dignity, and opportunity to all Palestinians and Israelis, we can build the future that we have all sought for so long. Only this way can the weapons of war at last be beaten into plowshares, and peace – true, lasting peace – descend on this land that is holy to so many. President Abbas, President Trump has stated, “I want you to know that if you choose the path to peace, America and many other countries will – we will be there.”

Thank you.